This year marks the third annual Allman Family Revival tribute show in celebration of Gregg Allman’s birthday. Only three cities will host the special event, and Denver is one.
With an all-star cast, the tour stops at the Fillmore in San Francisco on December 7, the Mission Ballroom in Denver on December 8 (Gregg Allman's actual birthday), and the Beacon Theater in New York City on December 28.
“The Revival is about celebrating my father’s life,” says Devon Allman. “I started this tribute two years ago to honor what would have been my Dad’s seventieth birthday, and it sold out. It was so much fun. It was like a family reunion for all these people that we know and love.”
The 47-year old Allman, who resembles his late father, promises a hot night. Allman will start with a warm-up set with his new project, the Allman Betts Band. The group include bandmates Duane Betts, the son of Allman Brothers Band co-founder, guitarist and singer Dickey Betts; and Berry Duane Oakley, son of Allman Brothers Band founding bassist, the late Berry Oakley.
“We’ll get the crowd fired up, and then boom — it's guest star after guest star. They’ll come up and play a song that they're famous for, and they’ll do their own version of an Allman-centric song,” explains Allman.
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The concert will include new cuts off the Allman Betts Band's 2019 debut album, Down to the River, classic Allman Brothers and Gregg Allman songs in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band, and a rotating lineup that Allman says “will keep things interesting.” The Denver show includes Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander; Robert Randolph of Robert Randolph & the Family Band; Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd & the Monsters; G. Love of G Love & Special Sauce; guitar virtuoso Eric McFadden, who plays with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars; Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke; Roy Orbison’s youngest son, Alex; and many more.
“We’ve upped the ante,” says Allman. “There’s this cool cross-pollinating and duets, such as this guitar player paired with this other guitar player, that you never thought you might see together.” A portion of the proceeds from the three shows will benefit School of Rock’s after-school music programs.
What was initially meant as a one-time family affair back in 2017 has become a fan favorite after word spread about the intense four-hour jam sessions and special appearances. Allman says he was asked to repeat the show the following year. From there, the demand has only grown.
“I know people would like to see us do a full-blown tour, but I don’t know that I’ll ever do that," he says. "I base the blueprint of the revival on something like The Last Waltz by the Band.”
Allman is a gritty-voiced, bluesy vocalist, songwriter, keyboardist, guitarist and producer like his father, who passed away from liver cancer in May 2017. Carving a name for himself years ago, Allman tasted success with his 1999 outfit Honeytribe and then recorded and played with the blues-rock super group Royal Southern Brotherhood before releasing three solo albums under the Devon Allman Band moniker. His third record, 2016's Ride or Die, climbed to number one on the Billboard Blues Album chart.
Born in Corpus Christi, Allman has played guitars for as long as he can remember. “I have a guitar room in my house where 45 guitars hang from floor to ceiling on four different walls.” He started what he calls his "healthy obsession," collecting the instrument when he managed a guitar section at Guitar Center in 1999 and 2000. “When I realized I could get insane deals on guitars, there went my paycheck. And then I started touring five years later, so I was gifted some, and Gibson guitars has been good to me as well.”
Today, Allman’s massive collection includes fifty his father left him. “That’s as special as it gets," he says. "I’ve given only three away: one to my brother Elijah [Blue], one to my sister Layla, and one to Duane Betts. The rest are staying with me.”
Prior to the Revival shows, the Allman Betts Band toured in support of "Shinin,'" the second single off the group's June album, Down to the River. Allman and singer and guitarist Betts, who met when Devon was seventeen and Duane was twelve, felt an instant chemistry when it came time to write and record the nine-song album.
Taking turns singing the songs, Allman and Betts recorded the LP at the renowned Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, where the Rolling Stones laid down tracks for “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar.”
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“There’s none more hallowed halls than that,” says Allman about the studio and its legacy. “We wanted to use the same approach of LPs that were made in the ’60s and ’70s — with an analog two-inch tape machine.” Tracking the songs live, in one or two takes, with the band in one room, meant “you had to be on your A-game because you’re not going to sing through the song five times and make a composite of the best syllables, lines and stanzas. You’re going to sing it all the way through, and you’re going to hope you have 80 percent of it perfect, and you can just go pick up a couple of the drops — lines.”
Mission accomplished. Down to the River is richer because of its imperfection.
“It hits you like an older record, because it has that soul,” Allman says.
The Third Annual Allman Family Revival is on Sunday, December 8, at the Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop Street. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8. Tickets start at $35 and are available at the Mission Ballroom website.
Hear the Allman Brothers Band and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.